Catholic Ex-Servicemen Don’t Count

In Northern Ireland Unionism/Loyalism is built on the political myths and symbols of Protestantism and Britishness i.e.they are anti-Catholic
map of ni
manchester guardian
realised in the early 1920s that it was an offence simply to be born Catholic in NI.
Summer 1920: Over 8,000 Catholic workers were expelled from the shipyard, nearly all the engineering works, most of the large factories, warehouses, shops and concerns of every kind. Scarcely one of them has since been allowed to return

NB 1,225 of the expelled were ex-service men.

NI was a “cold house” for Catholics with relentless use of the past as a political weapon to browbeat them even more.
In the mind of Ulster Unionists/Loyalists
Catholics are assumed to be hostile to the institutions of the Union (disloyal). All Catholics are suspect, irrespective of their status or achievements. The state’s core values of Protestantism and Britishness defined them as outsiders.
Catholics were ‘the enemy within’ and were seen as posing a security problem. They were offered citizenship in the new state but only on terms which made them second-class citizens.

Irishmen in WWI
soldiers in trenches
1914: Irishmen joined the British Army in very large numbers.
206,000 Irishmen served in the British forces during WWI
*58,000 were already enlisted in the British Regular Army or Navy
*24,000 originated from the Redmondite National Volunteers
*80,000 were mostly urban poor, hoping for a pay rise and the chance to learn a trade.
*Some 26,000 recruits came directly from the 1912 Ulster Volunteers – the unionist militia.

1912 uvf
UNIONIST MYTH: Remember! Only the UVF fought in WWI and deserves to be commemorated
red poppy
The poppy has long been the preserve of the unionist/loyalist community and is seen by many as a political symbol and a symbol of Britishness representing support for the British Army.
bullshit detected
After WW1: Unionists/Loyalists and Catholic ex-servicemen
1918: When young Catholic men were demobbed
and sent home to Belfast they found worse enemies than the Germans waiting for them
1921: Catholic ex-servicemen had to leave Craigavon Military Hospital near Belfast and seek treatment elsewhere after they received
anonymous letters
containing threats from Loyalists
Loyalists murdered Malachy Halfpenny,

wounded twice and gassed during the war,
wwi soldier
together with 3 other young Catholic men.
Mr Halfpenny’s multilated body was dumped far from where he lived
catholic Mrs Kerr, widow,

war widow
received a plaque and a letter from King George V commemorating her husband
Some hours later a Loyalist mob attacked
loyalist attack
and wrecked her house in Vere St
1922: Loyalists evicted Patrick O’Hare,
loyalist attack
home on leave from the Connaught Rangers, from his house in Urney St, making his family of young children homeless
Joseph Walshe (39), who had served in the Middle East, was battered to death in bed with a sledgehammer
along with 6 other Catholics in the Arnon St massacre by policemen from Brown Sq Constabulary Barracks
His seven-year-old son Michael was shot and died from his wounds the next day. Another son, Frank (14), was shot in the thigh but survived.
1935: Charles Tierney, a British Army Reservist was beaten up,
loyalist attack
spent 3 months in hospital and had his house wrecked and burnt out
Loyalists rioting in Belfast
1939-45 WW2 and Ulster’s War Effort
school report
Alone in the UK, the British Government decided against conscription in Northern ireland
no conscription
because the Stormont Parliament told them a large minority did not regard themselves as British.
could do better
1940: A senior civil servant from the War Cabinet assessed the contribution Northern Ireland was making or could make to the war effort. He reported a general lack of concern, indifference on the part of the Ni government, technical stagnation in the principal industries particularly shipbuilding, engineering and linen which had remained as they had been in the 19th century
1945: James Magennis VC

magennis and vc
could not get a job because Ulster Loyalists “were reluctant to employ Roman Catholics“.
magennis vc
Mr Magennis moved to Huddersfield where he became an honoured citizen
1999: Long after he had died, and more than 50 years after he won the VC, a monument was finally erected in his honour at Belfast City hall

magennis memorial
Too little, too late
1977: Elderly Canon Hugh Murphy CBE, Chaplin to the Royal Navy Reserve during WWII,
rn chaplin
member of the British Legion, parish priest in Ahoghill, was invited to conduct the Remembrance day service in Ballymena.

The Paisleyite chairman of the Town Council “refused to take part in any service at which a Roman catholic priest was officiating”
1978: Canon Murphy was kidnapped by a Loyalist gang
loyalist attack
and held hostage because the IRA had abducted a member of the RUC
Johnny McNabb,
Not for Photosales
a Catholic serving in the Irish Guards when the Troubles erupted in Northern Ireland, was repeatedly the subject of interrogation for suspected terrorist activity.
On one occasion he was interrogated for seven hours by paratroopers in Bessbrook after he inadvertently ended up in Crossmaglen.
Police officers in London detained him for two days while they questioned him in relation to bombings in the capital in the 1970s.
If Catholics, Republicans and nationalists do not honour our non-Unionist Irish dead who will?
green poppy
Next year if you want to recognize our ancestors who joined the British Army during WW1 or at any other time for whatever reason (poverty, Home Rule, adventure, etc) and who died or were injured,
green poppy
Wear a green poppy

Republicanism and Loyalty in Ireland, Andrew Boyd
Memorial to James Joseph Magennis VC

7 thoughts on “Catholic Ex-Servicemen Don’t Count

  1. Love this. Unfortunately these men are caught in the middle, claimed by neither side. I suspect that some took part for adventurism, a few for King v Kaiser but most for plain economic reasons. I believe it was a very good wage. The Irish state does commemorate them in the context of all fallen Irish in wars and in peacekeeping. The green poppy looks to me to be a great idea to commemorate our fallen within Ireland in and around 11/11 with the proceeds going to fund the welfare of those who have served in the PDF. It must be remembered that many northerners have served and continue to serve our Defense Forces.


  2. thanks for such a good comment. I agree these men found themselves in a difficult position but am convinced it was more than compounded by Unionist/Loyalist bigotry in NI.
    I hope the idea of a green poppy gains ground and whatever funds may be gathered going to the welfare of Irish veterans and their families
    best wishes


  3. Doubt a Green Poppy would find many takers in places like West Belfast.
    Certainly not from anybody that lived through “Operation Banner” as the British Army called it.
    Wonder what Trooper McCabe’s family would think of it.


  4. Thanks for your comment Political Tourist – Sorry for the delay in replying. Since I am not by any means a techie geek I do run into these internet disruption problems which mean I am off line for a bit until they are sorted!!

    Anyway I agree anyone who lived through Operation Banner ” the operational name for the British Armed Forces’ operation in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007.” might not feel like wearing any poppies of any colour whatsoever – red, white or green!
    The point of this piece was to show that many Catholics who were veterans of the British Army (did their bit for King and Country for whatever reason) were very badly treated by the UnionistsLoyalists in Northern Ireland.
    No news here, you say, considering how Catholics were generally treated. That’s the point. No matter what Catholics do, they are always disloyal – they can even win the VC- doesn’t count!!
    These veterans deserve to be remembered as people who tried to work within a rigged system and did their best, as they saw it – for themselves, to put food on the table for their families, and so on.
    To no avail when they returned to NI as the post shows. .
    Who of us does not have a great-grandfather or great-uncle who fell in WWI or WWII?
    Who feels like condemning him?

    Trooper McCabe ;

    The 20-year-old father-of-two, who was stationed in Germany, was shot dead on August 15 1969 while home on leave in Belfast.

    He was shot under disputed circumstances by the RUC.
    in 1999, a plaque was unveiled at Divis Tower in memory of Mr McCabe and nine-year-old Patrick Rooney who was also killed by police.

    Anything new here about RUC shooting Catholics? Doesn’t Trooper Mc Cabe deserve to be remembered?The peope in Divis towers have linked his death linked to Patrick Rooney’s.
    What’s wrong with a green poppy (or any other suitable symbol)if people want to remember him and others like him?


  5. Pingback: Edward Carson (1854 -1935) | the

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